Mindful Travel, Part 4: 3 Things to Think Critically About Before You Buy a Plane Ticket
Travel is Changing, and Travelers Need to Take Responsibility
The world is essentially a global village now. If you save up the funds and are willing to plan, you can almost go anywhere. Formerly remote and untouched places are changing fast because of our “travel NOW” and escapist mentality that is leading us to escape farther, be more epic, get off the beaten track, snap those wanderlust-worthy social media pics. When I was in college, I was constantly daydreaming over travel Pinterest boards and writing quotes about going out to see the world, experience things, discover myself and learn by immersion instead of just through books and articles.
And, damn. I did. I followed some gut intuition of mine and fled like a bird testing out its wings after being in a zoo for far too long. I traveled, I worked, I met people. I tested my limits. But the more I leave my American bubble, the more people I meet, the more I realize how scary and damaging travel can be when you take time to look at its consequences aside from the benefits. I never used to consider the environmental impacts of travel, or think about the not-so-glamorous sides of adventuring, like the horrific waste, the dangerous party scenes, and the damage to formerly pristine natural places.
This is NOT an anti-travel post. Hell no. I would not be the braver, spontaneous person I am today had it not been for my forays across the globe. But it is a plea, and a call-to-action, for those of us lucky enough to be able to travel in a day and age where environmental and social issues are stacking up on top of each other like the world’s most terrifying game of Jenga. We need to take responsibility and raise awareness for these issues, and it all starts with mindfulness and reflection. Here are three things I recommend thinking about before you click that purchase button on your next round of plane tickets.
1) Identify Your Motives for Travel
Are you running away from something? Are you frustrated? Did you have a bad break up? Hate your job? Got some time off before starting your studies? Have a few weeks vacation? Finally executing a dream trip or ticking off a bucket list item? These are all perfectly reasonable motives to travel, but oftentimes I think we don’t actually think about why we’re doing what we’re doing. And maybe sometimes you just need to leave to figure out why you wanted to go in the first place. But I think it’s beneficial to try and identify the reason you are traveling in the first place, so you can have realistic expectations for yourself and your time abroad. It contributes to your mindfulness as well.
2) Read Up On the Locations You Are Visiting
This is something I personally need to work on; I tend to like arriving somewhere and jumping in head first, learning by experience. However, reading about the culture and the history of a country or place that you haven’t been to is not only interesting, but crucial when it comes to understanding why a certain culture is the way that it is, or why people might behave they way that they do. It shows maturity and respect when you arrive somewhere with an idea of the local customs. Of course, the benefits of learning by experience cannot be understated. Often, it’s only two or more months into being somewhere (or even a few years if you’ve moved abroad) before you truly feel like you have a grasp on a place or at least the mindfulness not to make a fool of yourself at a dinner party or while ordering your coffee.
So, it’s a balance. Do your research, but keep an open mind and really experience the ways of the country that you’re visiting.
3) Think About the Environmental Impact of Your Trip, and Try to Balance That Out
Travel is not light on your carbon footprint. I think that’s the most important thing to realize about this topic, because it may very well be something that’s not even come to mind. Awareness is the first step to change. Travel is absolutely a gift, and we are very fortunate to be able to do it. Air travel contributes to a heavy use of fossil fuels, so consider alternative ways of getting to your destination or at least purchasing carbon credits to offset your footprint. These are basically credits that support environmental projects like tree-planting, distributing more energy-efficient lightbulbs, and soaking up methane gas in landfills.
It’s good to be aware of the environmental impact of travel. I believe it helps us appreciate it more, respect it, and take it more seriously. My own lifestyle is not the best example - I fly back and forth across the ocean a lot for work and home visits. I am aware of the damage and I try to offset it in my lifestyle and my conservation work as much as I can. In the future, I hope to find the place and home base where I can achieve my goals without needing to move around so much. Or, find the happy medium on a sailboat :) Taking responsibility is important, but no one is perfect. We just need to find ways to reduce our impact.
Here are some more examples about being more eco-friendly when you travel from another great blog. Feel free to check out Calculator.CarbonFootprint.com to calculate your carbon footprint - there’s heaps of other calculators out there, so find one that you like. There’s also a good guide here from Million Mile Secrets that covers how to reduce your carbon footprint, including everything from packing light to picking the most eco-minded airlines (is that a contradiction? Maybe…).
#AdventureLikeYouGiveADamn is an awesome initiative from Outdoor Project focused on bringing awareness to environmental issues, watching your impact, showing kindness and compassion for fellow adventurers, and more. Definitely swing over to the website to share in the knowledge!
Alright! So after some critical thinking and reflection, maybe you’re ready to purchase those plane tickets. Great. Travel is so enriching and rewarding. I love when I am surrounded by people from all over the world who think this way - respecting the local culture, experiencing gratitude for the opportunity to visit, and really taking time to immerse themselves in their experience.
I made a video on my trip to Bali (only about three minutes long) and why it was a good experience in mindful travel for me. Give it a watch below and let me know what you think! Do you have other ideas about travel and being mindful and eco-friendly? I’d love to hear them.